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TV Receivers

Do you ever want to catch your weekly radio or TV program without taking your eyes from your computer screen? Or get a sudden urge to record the theme song of your favorite movie or TV show? MyTV/fm and ProTV Stereo allow you do all this and more.

The most basic difference between the two products is how they connect to your computer. The ProTV occupies a PCI slot and involves opening the machine, while the MyTV/fm attaches externally to any available USB port. Although this setup is designed to attract users of the newer USB-equipped machines, we found it worked well with an older beige G3 Mac upgraded with a USB PCI card.

Both devices present an array of inputs for hooking up s-video, cable TV, and FM radio antenna connections. Because it's an external box, you can store the MyTV/fm anywhere on your desk, and your cables won't be all crowded together into the tiny bracket space on the back of the machine, as they are with the ProTV Stereo. The MyTV/fm also includes a set of connecting cables while ProTV Stereo assumes you have your own.

Software installation was a breeze for both. The ProTV Stereo includes a copy of Adobe Premiere 5.1 LE as well as a utility for operating the TV and FM radio functions. The MyTV/fm ships with a less poished tuner utility as well as a copy of Strata VideoShop 4.5 for editing captured movie clips.

The first step in setting up either tuner involves searching the air for available signals and typing in invidual names for the channels it has found. The ProTV Stereo utility presents a prettier interface for doing this, compared to the more dated software of the MyTV/fm. The ProTV software has a few other nice touches as well. It's got a module that allows switching the tuner input via the Control Strip, and it can post TV snapshots to a Web server at a specified interval. You can also add text, graphics, a timestamp, or a mosaic blur over any portion of the transmitted clip.

The on-screen image will only be as good as the TV reception in your locale, and we found both products to give similar results. Getting a good signal from inside an office building is just about impossible, and an external antenna or cable TV source makes all the difference in the world. The ProTV Stereo can also display a seperate window containing closed-captioned information that is transmitted with some broadcasts. We had mixed results using this feature -- it didn't work very well with input from a satellite receiver but worked perfectly with a strong over-the-air broadcast signal. To be fair, even closed-caption-equipped TVs will produce garbled text if the accompanying TV signal is snowy.

Although both products offer comparable image quality, QuickTime clips from the ProTV Stereo are much larger in file size, so moving forward and backward in a captured movie is quicker on movies produced by the MyTV/fm; the MyTV/fm contains a hardware compressor chip that squeezes each frame of the video stream into a compact JPEG image before it is sent to the computer. In contrast, the much simpler ProTV Stereo card uses the Mac to compress each image in software using QuickTime.

The ProTV card features its own audio input, and unfortunately, we found that movie clips of more than a couple of minutes in length lost synchronization with the video portion of the clip when this input was used. The MyTV/fm uses the built-in audio port on the Mac and did not exhibit this problem.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Can post images to the Web
    • Inexpensive
    • Friendly interface

    Cons

    • Requires opening up the computer
    • Separate audio input results in sound sync problems
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